HOW TO PLEASE A WOMAN – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

For a film promoting sex positivity, How to Please a Woman is sadly a snooze. Its heart is in the right place, but poor pacing and a lack of dramatic tension keep this would-be romp from being as bawdy and fun as it wants to be. Films that celebrate sex and sensuality as a part of life, particularly as we age, often receive a warm reception—and with good reason. Filmmakers have a way to make us laugh at the awkwardness around sex while acknowledging that desire is healthy. But How to Please a Woman lacks engrossing dramatic stakes.

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CLEAN (SXSW 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The first time I ever heard of crime scene cleaners was the episode You’re Soaking In It about Joan Dougherty in the first series of Errol Morris’s First Person in 2000. While some episodes in that series were little more than novel, quirky snapshots (the one about the parrot who witnesses a murder deserves a mention here), it was the Dougherty episode that has long since remained in my memory, exploring as it did the psychology and personality of someone who would dedicate their lives to something so unsavory, and yet so very, very necessary.

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SISSY (SXSW 2022) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

There’s nothing quite like the heartbreak and devastation of a best-friend break-up when you are a kid. Your entire universe collapses, and while not exactly a capital-T Trauma in the grand scheme of things, for some those wounds play a formative role in carving the doubts and insecurities that follow us into adulthood. Enter Cecilia (Aisha Dee), a lonely but increasingly successful social media wellness influencer who through total chance bumps into her early high school BFF Emma (Hannah Barlow) on the cusp of the latter’s wedding.

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SISSY (SXSW 2022) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Australian writer/directors Hanna Barlow and Kane Senes bring mean girls, social media savagery, fear of being cancelled, the repercussions of childhood trauma, and gore, gore, gore to their comedy horror mashup Sissy. Aisha Dee is both luminescent and looney tunes as the title character Sissy, or as she has calls herself to her 200,000 IG followers, Cecilia.

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THE DRY – Review by Susan Granger

If you’re looking for a compelling Australian mystery/thriller, try The Dry in which Eric Bana plays Aaron Falk, a Melbourne federal agent who returns to his (fictional) hometown of Kiewarra after an absence of 20 years to attend the funeral of a childhood friend, who appears to have shot and killed his wife, his son and himself – sparing only his baby daughter.

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APPARITIONS – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

In its savvy combination of ghost story and slasher subgenres, Apparitions’ playful twists and turns provide ample popcorn thrills that make this a sure-fire essential for those with a taste for low-budget indie horror. While not exactly redefining the horror genre in any kind of radical way, in its defense Apparitions shows no real interest in doing so. Rather, what it offers instead are simply some really great characters, co-director Cummings’ turn as Jane a particular stand out.

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DRY WINTER (MIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Kyle Davis’s Dry Winter taps into a recent tradition in Australian independent cinema of low-key portraits of outsiders looking for a way in, capturing a spirit of authenticity through the use of non-professional actors. Even further capturing the spirit of true independent filmmaking, this project was far from the product of established industry insiders – Davis, along with the bulk of the film’s crew, are all graduates of Adelaide’s Flinders University. But this is no student film; Dry Winter is a confident, poetic portrait of lost time and treading water in the small-town wastelands of rural Australia.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 23, 2021: PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY

Valerie Taylor started diving with sharks back when, as archival footage reveals, it was considered droll to refer to her as a “mermaid” who was there to support and presumably fawn over the male divers. But based on what we learn of her in Sally Aitken’s entertaining documentary Playing with Sharks, it seems likely that if Taylor ever heard that description, she probably rolled her eyes and left the guys eating her bubbles.

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